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Designer hotels offer in style - Nepal news

DESIGNER HOTELS OFFER IN STYLE

On a recent Tuesday evening in New York, a lone guest sat waiting in the lobby of Morgans Hotel. At first glance, the room still had the stylish sheen that caused a stir when Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, owners of the original Studio 54, opened the hotel two decades ago. But on closer inspection, its leather armchairs were dotted with stains and scratches. The plaster next to the elevator doors was wearing away.

A few blocks away, at the W Court, things were buzzing. “Door ambassadors” clothed in black whispered into barely visible headsets as a Latin-blues concoction played in the background. Shiny, sensuous fabrics covered every surface, all of them suffused in red light.

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If you don’t know the history, you’d be hard pressed to say which was the original design-driven boutique hotel and which was the knockoff by a company with hundreds of properties worldwide. And that, for guests seeking the very latest in style, is the problem: design hotels are no longer challenging the mainstream – they are the mainsteam.

But fear not, elitist designo-holics few hotels in Europe have taken the design hotel concept to the next level. Looking back, what got the big players involved? In the ‘80s and ‘90s, consumers demanded that big chains offer a high level of service everywhere- from metropolitan hubs to truck stops, said James Anhut, senior vice president of brand development at Inter Continental Hotel Group. “The industry responded to that, and as a result-not in a negative way-we’ve got all these wonderful cookie-cutter hotels,” he said.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide introduced the W brand in 1998 to satisfy consumers’ growing hunger for accessible style. Since May 2003, LeMErdien has rolled out its Art + Tech concept, a combination of high design and high technology, in six hotels on three continents. In October, InterContinental opened its first Hotel Indigo for midlevel consumers with high-style tastes in Atlanta.
Luxury chains and developers are taking another tack to keep their consumers’ interest: labeling hotels with names from the top echelons of fashion. The Ritz-Carlton chain, part pf Marriott International, has a Bulgari hotel in Milan, with another to follow in Bali, and Emaar Properties of Dubai is planning to open several Armani-branded hotels, and resorts in the next few years.

So what’s next? Hotel Q! opened last April on the Knesebeckstrasse in Berlin, around the corner from the buzzing Kurfurstendamm, the city’s fashion artery. The hotel’s blocky, dark gray exterior belies an interior from not just a different galaxy. In the small lobby of the 72-room hotel, the walls and counters take on folded forms with rounded corners. Ivory, white, black and red predominate, with surfaces often back-lighted.

Seven floors up, in a U-shaped studio room, a combination angled wall/dropped ceiling separates the center of the room from the entry-way and bed area. The gap in the U is taken up by a fully enclosed toilet and by shower stalls. A divan upholstered in cream-colored fake ostrich faces a gigantic flat-screen television. But the piece de resistance is a single folded surface in mocha veneer that supports a queen bed and, right next to it, a deep soaking tub. A button on the wall nearby heats the slate floor tiles between the bath and twin basins. “We got rid if the notion of the wall being a wall, being a single surface,” said Lars Kruckeberg, a partner at Graft Berlin, the architectural company that designed the hotel. The new take required a new way of thinking. Kruckeberg said his company’s aim was to create “emotionalized spaces” where the distinction between furniture and its surrounding disappeared. And the softened angels of the room, together with the choice of dark browns and off-whites, certainly have a comforting effect.

Further tranquility can be obtained in the basement spa, where amber light swaths tiles walls. The spa has two saunas, a massage room and Japanese bathing stations complete with silvery bowls and basins set in a low wood bench. In the spa’s relaxation area is, in essence, a beach transported to a basement, complete with fine sand and curved red-orange loungers alongside sleek reading tables and lamps. All in all, it offers a cool calming version of the future. Not so at Straf, a hotel poised behind a distinguished stone façade, just steps from Milan’s Duomo on the Via San Raffaelle. Dubbed “Stalag Straf” in an online forum by one guest shortly after its opening at the end of 2003, the hotel offers an approach to design that verges on the postapocalyptic.
The 66-room Straf is not actually a let’s-play-prison hotel or some other social experiment, but it does push hotel-design tropes to their hardest edges. In the lobby, every surface seems to have been scraped, from glass layered over torn gauze to concrete, plaster panels and streaked brass. The main furniture is blocky, oblong settees in nondescript khaki with built-in lighted tables.
Nothing about Straf is Kitschy or distracting, except perhaps the new-age devotional music playing in the well-stocked breakfast room. As the execution of a new theory of the hotel, it is elegant and complete. Still, the overall feeling is of a very sleek bunker.
Casa Fuster, which opened last August in Barcelona, presents a third route to innovation in design-driven hotels. The Catalan brand of modernism that arose in the early 20th century has never fit precisely into the timeline of Western architecture. Blending it with new ideas, materials and technology provides a natural way forward.
The hotel sits at the top of the glamorous Passeig de Gracia in a landmark building from 1908, the work if Lluis Domenech I Montaner, who is better known for Palau de la Musica.
Catalana. For Nicolas Osuna Garcia, president of the Hoteles Center, the task was to create a five-star flagship for what had been a four-star chain. At the same time, he wanted to challenge the Ritz-Carlton as the best hotel in Barcelona. So he had to do something unique.
The building is not as avantgarde as the Palau, or those of Antonio Gaudi, but a step inside provides plenty of aesthetic excitement. The original red marble columns stand on a floor of glittering, iridescent black marble in the irregular mosaic style called trencadis. Ultramodern floor lamps and hanging lights, some in the shape of gargantuan upside-down petunians, illuminate the vaulted ceiling.
There’s no reason to expect that hotel guests will ever be stuck with ordinary, said Alain Gayot, editor of Gayot Publications, which provides advice to high-end travelers. “I’m sure that yes, over time, they’re going to come up with new concepts and keep pushing the end of the envelope, where your room is hanging on top of a 1,500-foot something-or-other, or in a ballon,” he said “We can take a look at shoes, or watches or cars. The design constantly evolves, and there’s always some-thing new.”

 

Source: Kathmandu Post, April 10, 2005


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